A sensor to reduce the cost of irrigation for farmers and a next generation water saving system for the leather processing industry are among 10 innovative projects to have received Government funding to tackle future water shortages in the UK.
The innovative technologies
are being developed by 10 small to medium-sized enterprises
), one of which is the Leeds-based Xeros
, which has already made waves with its waterless washing machine technology
. Collectively they have been awarded over £500,000 by the Technology Strategy Board
(TSB), the business-led Government body.
will enable the businesses to develop their early stage ideas with the aim that some or all of them will go on to be larger projects and turn the problem of water scarcity into a business opportunity and enabling new markets.
Under the terms of the funding competition, each project must either save or recycle
1,000 million litres per day worth of water – around the same volume of water it would take to fill 400 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
The Government, which is due to publish a draft Water Bill this Parliamentary session, wants to see the growth in the water efficient and water security goods and services sector. As such, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has invested £3.5 million into innovation
in water security through a competition launched by the TSB in March.
The Environment Agency estimates that by 2050 the UK will have a shortage in water supply of up to 10,000 million litres a day. The feasibility projects announced today aim to address the UK’s water security issues, but could also apply to water shortage issues abroad. The UN estimates 1.6 billion people currently live in countries classified as 'water stressed’.
"In the UK, we are surrounded by water so it’s easy to take the security of our supply for granted. It seems hard to envisage that we could, in the short space of 40 years, start running out of fresh water," Iain Gray, chief executive of the TSB.
The funding will enable Xeros to develop a system to clean leather that will both save water and protect the environment by reducing the polluting toxins in the leather industry’s waste water. The company successfully developed a new cleaning system that uses nylon beads instead of water to absorb dirt. It uses 10 per cent of the water of conventional machines and 30 per cent less energy.
Another project announced today is being developed by a company called Aquamesh and will use knowledge gained from the mining industry to create a low energy sensor network for farmers that will cut the amount of water used in irrigation leading to both cost savings and predicted increase in crop yields.
Other projects include a 'flushsaver’ toilet cistern to eradicate toilet leaks being developed by Tespar and Tonic Studios; a global water market platform able to track past, current and future information on water prices and availability from Digital Look and University College London; and INFO-Leak, a technology that locates and maps leaks in small mains.
The total cost of all 10 projects, including investment from the firms themselves, is just over £1 million. The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) have invested £80,738 towards the costs.
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